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Liposomal Vitamins: Should We Believe the Hype?

Liposomal Vitamins: Should We Believe the Hype?
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Do liposomal vitamins deliver on their promises? We weigh the evidence.

Liposomal vitamins have been hailed as a “breakthrough” for supplement delivery, promising consumers higher absorption than regular oral vitamins. For this reason, liposomal vitamins cost significantly more than normal vitamins, costing as much as three times more. Are these supplements worth the extra cost? Do they deliver more potent vitamin punches, or is it all hype?

Liposomal vitamins are vitamins encapsulated in a sphere of phospholipids, the same material that make up cell membranes. Liposomes are manufactured synthetically from cholesterol and other forms of fat. The idea is that, because liposomal vitamins are made of the same material as cell membranes, the vitamin can easily bond with cells and is better absorbed. The phospholipid sphere protects the enclosed nutrient from getting degraded in the digestive tract, meaning liposomal delivery could benefit those with digestive issues who do not absorb nutrients as readily as others. Given that high-dose vitamin C can cause digestive discomfort and diarrhea, liposomal vitamins could be an attractive option for those who want to take a high dose of C while avoiding those side effects.

Additionally, by essentially bypassing the digestive system, more efficient delivery can be achieved, meaning a lower dose of the nutrient in liposomal form could be equivalent to a much higher dose of a conventional supplement in tablet or capsule form.

Liposomal delivery is especially advantageous for certain nutrients that are generally not absorbed well and have low bioavailability, like vitamin C, glutathione, and curcumin.

These are the purported benefits of liposomal products; but what do the studies say?

The evidence supporting liposomal products is promising. In one study of 11 men and women, researchers found that 4 grams of vitamin C delivered liposomally produced higher circulating concentrations of vitamin C than conventional vitamin C supplements. The higher bioavailability of vitamin C encapsulated in liposomes was confirmed by a subsequent study in 2018. An article published in Integrative Medicine: A Clinician’s Journal states that liposomal vitamins increase intracellular delivery and had higher bioavailability and absorption compared with other oral supplements. A 2019 study found that white blood cells absorbed 50 percent more vitamin C from a liposomal product than a non-liposomal product. Another study found that liposomal vitamin A was more useful than oral forms for delivering vitamin A directly to bone cells to help with osteoporosis.

But there is some conflicting evidence. One small study found no better absorption of a 5 gram dose with liposomal vitamin C versus non-liposomal vitamin C. At larger doses (20g and 36g vitamin C), though, liposomal vitamin C was better absorbed, leading some to believe that liposomal products are more valuable for larger doses than smaller doses.

The weight of the evidence, then, seems to indicate that liposomal vitamins are, indeed, better absorbed. Note, though, that some liposomal products are made with soy lecithin, so those with allergies should carefully read labels to avoid problematic ingredients. Additionally, 94 percent of soy is genetically modified; we’ve reported previously on the dangers of eating genetically modified foods, so consumers may want to avoid soy entirely unless it is organic.

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